Galatians Overview

Galatians is the only letter of Paul’s that does not contain a single word of praise.

What elicited such Pauline heat and outrage?

The mistake of the Corinthians were mistakes of addition; the mistake of Galatians was subtraction. The Corinthians had polluted the gospel. The Galatians had abandoned it for another religion, a “different gospel” .

Paul begins his letter by “pulling rank” and establishing his authority as an apostle – hoping that the Galatians might listen to authority (if they are ignoring arguments).

An immediate and specific issue masked the more fundamental one. The immediate issue was whether Christians had to be circumcised (OT – relying on law for salvation). The more fundamental one was how to be saved.

God says, in effect, that whatever the answer I give at the gate of Heaven it had better not begin with my favorite word, “I” but with the Word, Christ. The Word had better be my favorite word.

The simple reason why no one can be saved by obeying God’s law is that no one obeys it! (Is 64:6, Phil 3:9). If we were saved by obeying the law, we would save ourselves and not need a savior. The purpose of the law is to condemn, to specify sins (3:19-22). it is the diagnosis, not the cure; the bad news, not the good news.

The law is like an X-ray. Sin is like cancer. Salvation is like an operation. Jesus is like the surgeon. Faith is like consent to the operation. The Galatian heresy is like thinking the X-ray will save you.

Justification = being made right with God

Sanctification = being made holy

The life of Christ comes into the soul by faith and out by works. It is not that you get to Heaven because you live a good life. Rather, you live a good life because Heaven has gotten you.

Paul concludes Galatians by talking about virtue and good works because that is part of the Gospel too. Works as well as faith are part of salvation, just as fruit as well as roots are part of a tree.


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